Politics and Faith

For much of the Twentieth Century, Christians refused to become involved in politics, choosing instead to focus on missions and theological concerns. The intent by some to avoid the "social gospel" and by others to reinterpret the meaning of the "separation of church and state" contributed to this phenomenon. In the late seventies and early eighties, however, evangelical Protestants and conservative Catholics, dismayed that the counterculturalists of the sixties had become mainstream in American life, galvanized as a political force over such issues as abortion and school prayer. The "Religious Right" was born, and with a religious conservative in the White House, perhaps has more influence today than any other time in recent memory.

But some evangelical Christians, dismayed that evangelicalism is being associated with Republican politics, have birthed their own "Religious Left" coalition, and insist that a Christian view of political involvement is not necessarily tied to conservative positions.

Certainly Christian faith and practice have political implications. The classic articles below attempt to delve into some of those implications, and what they might mean for government and democracy. 

LeaderU Classics

Politics and Religion
Kirby Anderson
"You can't legislate morality" is an often heard phrase. This principle has kept many Christians from trying to influence legislation for years. Is it time to reconsider the relation between morality and the law?

A Christian View of Politics, Government, and Social Action
Kirby Anderson
A Christian view of human nature, including the ability to choose and an inherited sinful nature, provides a basis for a Biblical understanding of government.

The Problem with Conservatism
J. Budziszewski
Professor Budziszewski offers a philosophical critique of the core principles of conservatism.

The Problem with Liberalism
J. Budziszewski
Dr. Budziszewski considers the philosophical principles of liberalism, and critiques the moral status of each.

Pulling the Lever: Our First Civic Duty
Chuck Colson
I can't tell you, my BreakPoint listeners, how much I envy you today. Why? Because as a convicted felon, I cannot vote. Today is Election Day (written in 1998), and your first civic duty is to vote! If you don't vote, you are abandoning the first tenet of the biblical command to be a responsible citizen. I won't tell you whom to vote for, because I never endorse candidates. But I will say that whether you vote Democratic, Republican, or Independent, you should look at one overriding criterion this year: Character.

The Hope of Heaven, The Hope of Earth
Christoph Schonborn
Schonborn investigates the following dilemma: "The real question is whether [the] tension [between politics and the Church] is good and useful, or harmful and reprehensible. What direction, then, ought the Church to take? If she concentrates on the hope of life after death as her proper task, she is accused of a lack of responsibility for life here on earth. If she becomes more involved in temporal affairs, she is criticized for forgetting her orientation to eternal life."

To Be Citizens Again
William A. Schambra
Many people vote for a candidate based on his or her position on welfare issues. Since the New Deal, it has been common to assume that the government should be responsible for the well-being of all citizens. At one time Americans looked to what may be called "mediating structures" to help those in need. Perhaps it is time to reconsider helping the needy primarily through volunteer efforts.

Who's Stupid Now?
James Nuechterlein
Nuechterlein briefly considers the conflict of ideas between liberalism and conservatism in 20th century America. While liberals held sway much of the 20th Century, conservative activism, birthed in the 1980's, took the initiative.

The Lure of Democracy
James Nuechterlein
Neuchterlein describes the modern state, critiquing an opinion piece by Alan Wolfe. Is ultimate meaning to be found in a vision of government? Or is it to be found in more traditional places, like the Church?

The Lost Art of Debate
Gene Edward Veith
A contrast and comparison of today's debates with the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates of a century and a half ago. Veith contends that the present-day "debate" format encourages cynicism that renders us incapable of the logical and rhetorical skills true debating once did.